Dramatically altering the physique to reveal a shape that can best be described as breathtaking can only be achieved when training for balanced size.
Massive arms bookending comparatively mediocre lat and shoulder development may look impressive in that tight-fitting shirt, but when the shirt comes off the muscular deficiencies become all the more glaring.
While certain overdeveloped areas can overshadow an impressive physique, the shoulders and lats (key V Taper muscles) can never be too well-developed.
Indeed, the real key to building the kind of V Taper that distinguishes the best physiques from the shapeless masses is to ensure all muscle groups are built to a respectable level with an emphasis on further developing the back, shoulders and chest while tightening the waistline.
Though the perfect V Taper remains the most sought-after attribute for both hardcore bodybuilders and beach body hopefuls, building one can be a perplexing task.
With conflicting advice confusing V Taper trainees the world over, where does one begin?
Before revealing the best exercises, tips and training approach for V Taper success I must mention one important point. The only way to truly determine muscle balance is to reduce body fat levels. So, before launching into your V Taper crusade, take stock of how well-proportioned you are when lean.
In respectable shape you will see whether your shoulders out-mass your pecs or if your waist is naturally blocky making your lats appear narrow and in need of some overtime on the chin-up bar. Assess your physique for weaknesses; then train accordingly.
Since we are all built differently and respond differently to certain movements and exercise protocols, it is important to carefully and consistently gauge training progress when striving for superior shape. For example, should your shoulders grow like weeds and begin to overpower the lats, you may need to scale back on the delt work and increase your back training.
Related: Combat Your Weakness Workout Program
Through diligent monitoring you can better modify your training approach to suit your individual requirements. I’ve personally had clients cut bicep work by half while doubling shoulder training due to stubborn delts and a genetic propensity to grow great guns.
Training is an organic process. Don’t get locked into one way of working out when better alternatives – often determined through trial and error – exist.
Recover and grow
No good training program is complete without touching on the importance of workout nutrition. In short, each daily meal must be considered part of an effective workout nutrition plan. The more quality nutrients floating around in your system the more energy you will have to properly tax your muscles in the gym and recover from each exhaustive training session.
When viewed as essential to workout success and as vital to translating reps into results, nutrition, as a whole, takes on a greater level of importance. As such, quality supplements are paramount. As a seasoned bodybuilding athlete,
I know from experience the different supplements –whey proteins, amino acids and pre-workout formulations – make when training for strength in the offseason and cuts pre-contest. In fact, the program and protocols outlined in this article are meaningless without a solid nutrition plan.
To build the best V Taper possible, quality nutrition (via whole foods and supplements) is unquestionably the most important variable of all.
Pro-Class V-Taper: tools of the trade
The following exercises comprise the best selection of V Taper-building movements in existence. However, this is not to say that they alone are essential for developing the dramatic shape of a champion.
Each movement outlined in the program is instrumental in accentuating the X Frame shape (including narrow hips, flaring quads and bulging calves) of which the V Taper (wide shoulders and back, small waist and popping pecs) forms major part. Tips to help you get the most from each exercise are included. Let’s get to work.
Dumbbell side laterals
Perform this movement seated to eliminate hip-thrust momentum to better isolate the side delts. Raise the dumbbells through a scapula plane (slightly to the front of the body, rather the directly to the sides). This minimizes the chance of injury while allowing the lateral delts, not the traps, to contract vigorously.
Dumbbell upright rows
Because the hands are not locked into one position (as they would be with a bar) the dumbbell upright row allows the shoulders the work through a wider range of motion while minimizing inward rotation of the shoulder joint to offset possible injury. Pulling the bells to the front delts instead of the neck places more stress on the lateral delts to build greater width.
An old-school favorite of the seven-time Olympia winner and former Terminator, Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Arnold Press literally adds a unique twist to the traditional delt mass builder. Beginning with the palms facing backwards and twisting them to the front as the movement progresses stimulates maximum delt fiber recruitment through a full range of motion.
In building a better V Taper many people mistakenly assume that a big chest will detract from shoulder and lat width; that it’ll create a blocky appearance. Massive pecs will indeed contribute to a fireplug-shaped physique in the absence of massive lats and shoulders.
However, the pecs will accentuate the appearance of greater delt thickness to enhance this critical V Taper attribute.
An underrated pec builder, chest dips can add layers of muscle to flesh out the upper torso. Performed with legs and torso forward and abs contracted with elbows in, slowly lower to a full stretch before using pec strength to press the body pack to the starting position.
Incline dumbbell press
The lower pecs are notorious rapid-responders. Upper pecs, however, are often less compliant. To remedy this problem the most effective direct upper pec mass builder can be employed to fill the clavicle region and balance out the entire chest complex.
This movement is also an excellent way to build stabilizer strength through the core and shoulders to enhance pressing strength on other mass building movements. Be sure to keep the elbows in and touch the thumbs to the outer pecs at the bottom of the movement to achieve a full stretch.
Do not rest at the bottom. Rather, keep continuous tension on the hard to target upper pecs from top to bottom. Avoid smacking the weights together at the top of the movement as this will only remove tension from the working muscles while placing unnecessary stress on the shoulder joints.
Chin ups (medium-width grip – palms facing back)
Both chin ups and pull ups are back building essentials that create ultra-wide lats. Chins ups are great for beginning bodybuilders as they require the assistance of the biceps and forearms to pull body to bar. Many feel chin ups are superior to pull ups as a greater lat contraction can be achieved due to the assistance of the biceps and forearms. There is also less shoulder strain at the top of the movement.
Notoriously difficult movements to master, chins and pull ups are well worth the effort required in learning them.
Pull ups (medium-width palms facing forward)
The tips provided for pull ups also apply to chin ups.
The key to successfully completing a set of pull ups is to maintain shoulder stability and trunk engagement through a full range of motion. Thus the grip must be secure and the abs and butt must be tight at all times. Squeeze the bar tight until the shoulders are contracted and maintain a vice-like grip to keep the shoulders stabilized.
This will allow greater control of the upper body and more tension to be exerted on the lats. At the same time squeeze the abs and butt as you would when locking out on a deadlift to ensure the body stays tight and is lifted as one unit.
Close grip pulldowns
Aside from building lat width the close-grip pulldown builds hard to target lower lat thickness (think the signature lats of Kai Greene for whom this movement is credited for much lower lat thickness). The close grip pulldown is an awesome V taper moment in that it also stimulates growth in the mid traps, rhomboids and serratus (all key areas which enhance overall aesthetics).
Its neutral (palms in) grip creates less tension on the shoulders and biceps/forearms, thus allowing full activation of the lats from top to bottom.
When performing this movement puff out the chest and retract the scapula (shoulder blades) to fully activate the lats. Pull the handle to the upper chest while keeping the elbows in at all times. Lead and drive down with the elbows rather than pulling with the hands to achieve superior lat activation.
As with all movements featured in this article, select a weight that allows you to stay in control of the movement. This is especially pertinent with lat training as the back muscles are especially difficult to properly engage; one possible explanation for the many mediocre backs seen in most gyms.
One-arm dumbbell rows
The one-arm dumbbell row is among the best movements for building thickness through the lats, rhomboids, lower traps and erectors of the lower back - though you wouldn’t think it since very few people seem to employ this misused and overlooked mass builder when trying to build a big back. And many of those who do use it only partially work the right muscles.
A combined triceps kickback/shrug/concentration curl does not constitute an effective back builder. To properly perform this key V Taper movement, first retract the scapula and stabilize the upper torso against a solid object with the opposite arm, keeping the upper body parallel to the ground.
With elbow in and from a full stretch lead with the elbow until the targeted complex of muscles is fully contracted. Keep the back slightly arched and the upper body stable at all times.
Swiss Ball crunches
This movement is a great way to target not only the rectus abdominis and transverse abdominis but also the smaller muscles that stabilize the hips and lower back. Thus it provides excellent core strength as well as a strong set of ‘ab’ muscles. Greater core strength translates to better technique on key V Taper movements such as the chin ups, pull ups and all pressing movements.
Lie back with ball positioned under lower back region and tense the abs hard before beginning this movement. Raise the chest to initiate the crunch; do not pull with the neck. Once the lower back is off the ball, return to the starting position (do not come up all the way).
Hanging leg raise
This movement can be performed hanging from a bar or with elbows resting on padding to keep upper body stabilized. The key to maximizing muscle tension across the entire ab region is to flex both the upper and lower body and complete slow, controlled reps (2 seconds up and 3 seconds down) to minimize momentum. No swinging the legs and maintain tension of the abs on the way down.
Ab training movements to avoid
V Taper success is largely achieved by keeping the waistline small and tight and muscular. While the rectus abdominis must be clearly visible these six pack muscles must not however be overdeveloped lest they overshadow lat and shoulder width. A bulging midsection due to overly thick abs is to be avoided at all costs.
Thus, heavy weights are to be avoided when targeting the midsection. Commonly weighted ab movements include Swiss ball and rope crunches. Side bends (performed with dumbbells) are also to be avoided as these thicken the external obliques and thus broaden the waistline.
With much secondary stimulation placed on the obliques via many of the movements featured in the following plan, side bends are redundant at best.
Squats and deadlifts
Unparalleled mass-builders, squats and deadlifts have nevertheless received a bad rap for supposedly contributing to that nemesis of aesthetic development, the blocky waistline.
Though both these movements do build maximum core size and strength, the reason for their unfair reputation could be that those who emphasize their use are often of a heavier persuasion due to the nature of their respective sports (powerlifters and football players, for example).
Also, the core muscles of the midsection may receive a disproportionate amount of stimulation if the weights used on the squat and deadlift are so heavy that fewer than eight repetitions are possible per set. When performing either of these movements, pay extra attention to correct form so as to ensure maximum stress is placed on the back and legs, with only minor secondary stimulation placed on the core.
In short, for compound lifts that also stimulate the core, use moderate weights, perform higher reps, and ensure proper technique. Provided all muscle groups are developed equally, the squat and deadlift are essential for further developing an X Frame appearance.
Training plan for a Pro-Class V Taper
|1a. Front Squat||4||8-12|
|1b. Leg Extensions||4||8-12|
|2. Leg Press||3||10-15|
|3. Lying Leg Curls||4||15-20|
|4. Standing Calf Raise||4||15-20|
|5. Seated Calf Raise||4||15-20|
|6a. Swiss Ball Crunches||4||15-20|
|6b. Hanging Leg Raises||4||15-20|
Cardio: 45 minutes steady-state on treadmill
|1a. Side Lateral Raises||4||8-12|
|1b. Arnold Presses||4||8-12|
|2. Upright rows||4||8-12|
|3. Bent Over Lateral Raises||3||8-12|
|4a. Incline Dumbbell Press||3||8-12|
|4b. Flat Bench Dumbbell Flyes||3||8-12|
|5. Chest Dips||3||8-12|
|6. Bench Press||3||8-12|
|3a. Close Grip Pulldowns||4||8-12|
|3b. Wide Reverse Grip Pulldowns||4||8-12|
|4. One Arm Dumbell Rows||4||8-12|
|5. Rack Pulls||3||8-12|
Cardio: 45 minutes steady-state on treadmill
|1. Tricep Kickbacks||4||8-12|
|2a. Tricep Pressdowns w/ Rope||4||8-12|
|2b. One Arm Overhead Dumbbell Extensions||4||8-12|
|3a. Barbell Curl||3||8-12|
|3b. Alternating Dumbbell Curl||3||8-12|
|4. One Arm Preacher Curl||3||8-12|
Cardio: 45 minutes steady-state on treadmill
|1. Dumbbell Side Laterals||3||8-12|
|2. Upright Rows||3||8-12|
|4. Close Grip Pulldowns||3||8-12|
|5. Swiss Ball Crunches||4||25-30|
|6. Hanging Leg Raises||4||15-20|
Cardio: 45 minutes steady-state on treadmill